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Taken from Corcitura, Chapter 10, The Ratliff Horror

Millionaire Philanthropists Found Dead

I snatched the paper off the tray and held it before my eyes, foolishly hoping the millionaire philanthropists of the headline were not the same ones I had been acquainted with since the days of my childhood. The headline danced before me, blurring in and out as I read over the words again and again, too scared to look at the report and have all my fears confirmed. Finally, I looked away from the headline and forced myself to read the article below.

London, Monday, 13 August 1888—Late last evening, David and Marishka Ratliff were found brutally murdered in their home in Westminster. Scotland Yard inspectors immediately questioned Mr. and Mrs. Ratliff’s servants and neighbors, but all were cleared of any involvement in the crime. The inspectors have noted that the modus operandi matches that employed in the murder of a woman, Martha Tabram, who was found stabbed to death in Whitechapel nearly one week ago. Although the authorities had ruled that the Tabram murder was an isolated incident, this new crime has made them reconsider. Do we have a killer in our midst? The authorities seem to think so. As with the former victim, the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Ratliff were covered in stab wounds, but in this case, the killer has added an additional weapon to his murderous arsenal: slashing throats in a particularly savage fashion with what the Americans call Devil’s Rope. Upon further inspection, it was determined that Mr. and Mrs. Ratliff’s throats had been savagely ripped open by a piece of barbed wire. Authorities had thought the killer to be from Whitechapel, but in light of this recent crime in Westminster, it is feared that the murderer has taken up residence in this district and will begin to perpetuate more atrocities in this part of the city. They caution against widespread panic, but one cannot help wondering when the next ax, or piece of barbed wire, as we now have it, will fall.

I ignored the last line for the sensationalism it was and turned the page. A photograph of David and Marishka with Stefan as a child took up half the page and underneath it ran the following:

Mr. and Mrs. Ratliff were well-known throughout Europe for their care of and generosity toward Romanian orphans, many of whom they brought to London to be educated. They are survived by their son, Stefan, who was not home when the murders were committed and is not a suspect in his parents’ deaths. Mr. and Mrs. Ratliff’s only son and heir, who was overcome with grief when given the horrible news, has asked that we print the following in memory of his beloved parents:

In Memoriam

As they were loved in life, so they shall be loved in death. They will be sorely missed.

“Sorely missed by everyone but you, that is,” I grunted, my teeth clenched in anger, my heart appalled by such blatant hypocrisy.

©2010, 2018 Melika Dannese Lux and Books In My Belfry®. Unauthorized use or reproduction of this excerpt without the author’s permission is strictly prohibited.